Security Clearance Reciprocity

Posted by Greg Rinckey

Will your clearance transfer from one agency to another? The answer is “It depends.”

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management conducts the background investigations for the majority of federal government agencies. However there are several that conduct their own investigations, such as the intelligence agencies and Department of Homeland Security.

The more closely related the agencies, the more likely an agency will reciprocate another agency’s adjudication. Under certain guidelines, some agencies are required to reciprocate the clearance adjudication of another agency.

OMB Memorandum dated December 12, 2005 provides that an agency that needs to determine the eligibility for access to classified information for an individual who has current eligibility with another federal agency or program cannot:

  1. Request the individual to complete a new security questionnaire;
  2. Review existing backgrounds for individuals;
  3. Review existing security questionnaires for the individual; or
  4. Initiate any new investigative checks

Unless the agency can establish that:

  1. The existing clearance was granted on an interim or temporary basis;
  2. The investigation upon which the clearance is based is more than seven years old for top secret designations, 10 years old for secret designations, and fifteen years old for confidential designations;
  3. The gaining agency is aware of substantial information indicating that the standards of Executive Order 12968 may not be satisfied.

Furthermore, if the individual is being considered for access to a highly sensitive program at the new agency, the new agency can decline to reciprocate another agency’s clearance adjudicative if:

  1. The existing access eligibility determination is based upon a waiver or deviation, or the access is otherwise subject to conditions;
  2. The individual does not satisfy a polygraph requirement imposed by the new program;
  3. The individual does not satisfy a requirement imposed by the new program that does not allow any non-U.S. immediate family;
  4. The individual does not satisfy an investigative and/or adjudicative criterion that is additional to the standards set forth in Executive Order 12968.

Some agencies are not sure if they are required to reciprocate the clearance adjudication of another agency. However, there are various databases that agencies can utilize to determine if they are required to reciprocate the clearance adjudication of another agency, including:

  1. OPM’s Central Verification System (CVS);
  2. The Department of Defense’s Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS); or
  3. The Intelligence Community’s Scattered Castles database

Additionally, an agency can fax an “Inter-Agency Clearance Verification Request” to the appropriate agency to determine the relevant clearance information.

Therefore if you have a basic clearance without special access issued by an agency such as the Department of Defense, it is unlikely that one of the intelligence agencies will reciprocate that clearance. As such you will have to undergo another background investigation.

In cases in which an agency is not required to reciprocate a clearance determination of another agency, it is also entirely possible that you are granted a favorable determination by one agency, while another agency denies you a clearance using the same set of facts from your background.

Greg Rinckey is the Managing Partner of Tully Rinckey PLLC, one of the largest federal sector employment law firms in the country. Greg is a recognized leader in the military and federal employment law sectors. Nicole Smith, Tully Rinckey Associate, represents government employees and contractors in a wide range of security clearance matters, with a concentration on application and interview counseling. Nicole spent nine years as a national security background investigator. Follow Tully Rinckey on Twitter @FedLawSource


This entry was posted on Monday, May 05, 2014 8:05 am

10 thoughts on “Security Clearance Reciprocity”

  1. What if a polygraph was administered and not adjudicated favorably. Could that affect multiple agencies or just the one that administered the exam?

    1. If the unfavorable information discovered by one agency is of interest and of concern to another agency, that would likely affect another agency’s adjudication of a clearance. Please note this response is not intended as legal advice.

  2. It’s not called the Clearance Verification System (CVS). That name was changed to the Central Verification System (CVS) years ago.

  3. If you have an in-scope BI with DoD, but not the required type of polygraph, it seems more likely that an intelligence agency would just require you get the polygraph, not start from scratch with a new investigation, too.

    1. MBI investigations are generally transferable between agencies. However, it depends on the type of position you intend to have with the IRS. Typically, if the new job falls within the same MBI category, it will easily transfer. For example, if the job you have with the DOJ requires an MBI Public Trust clearance and the IRS job requires the same, you should be in the clear. However, if there is a National Security component to the IRS job which requires a higher level MBI clearance, you may have to be cleared before they will accept you into the position. I recommend talking to the human resources department at the IRS to fully understand their clearance requirements. If you would like to speak further with a member of Tully Rinckey PLLC’s National Security Law Practice Group, call (202) 787-1900. The information provided here does not constitute legal advice.

  4. I have a TS with SSBI from DOD adjucated in 2012 with DHS SCI 2014. When I speak to recruiters and inform them of this they are not willing to consider reciprocity. When I inform them they need to verify in Scattered Castles, the interview process stops. I believe this is mainly because they don’t have access to Scattered Castles and JPAS doesn’t show SCI eligibility so they bypass me. How can I over come this obstacle?

    Thank you

    1. I think you are correct. As you know, the recruiters are looking for specific people, with specific qualifications. If you have a DHS SCI, for example, the recruiter may be looking for an SCI clearance that has been certified by a different intelligence agency. They may not have easy access to Scattered Castles to verify your qualifications, or have had difficulty when previously attempting to develop reciprocity leads for a recruit. Frankly, if you have the right credentials and qualifications for the job the recruiters will make it happen. If you don’t, then they have no incentive to try to seek reciprocity or search databases. If you would like to speak further with a member of Tully Rinckey PLLC’s National Security Law Practice Group, call (202) 787-1900. The information provided here does not constitute legal advice.

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